Nobody -- not the cruise lines, not passengers and not travel agents -- wants to even think about fuel surcharges anymore. But with oil prices on the rise, fuel charges may be poised to make a comeback.
The cruise lines' decision in fall 2007 to instate fuel surcharges, generated almost a full year of controversy, from a Florida attorney general's office investigation into possible cruise line collusion when setting the fees, to Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s refunds of about $40 million and $21 million, respectively, for having assessed the fees retroactively, to quite a bit of resentment from agents for having to collect the fees.
Almost every cruise line dropped their surcharges in the fall, after fuel prices fell.
It is fair to say that the entire industry would rather keep those supplements the distant memory they now seem to be, of a time when gas prices held steady around $4 per gallon and crude oil prices hit $145.
Unfortunately, there is a serious possibility the fees could be reinstated. With summer just around the corner, fuel prices have been slowly rising this month, and last week prices hit $62 a barrel.
When Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. dropped their fuel surcharges for all 2009 cruises last fall, both companies said they reserved the right to reinstate the fuel supplement, should the price of oil increase above $65 per barrel.
Carnival Corp. said it reserved the right to reinstate the fee when oil reached $70.
Carnival Corp. spokesman Tim Gallagher said last week that the company has not had any discussions on reinstating the fees. Neither NCL nor RCCL returned requests for comment.